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gut health, gut microbiome and skin health

gut health, gut microbiome and skin health
Posted in: skin health

Carly Seager (RD) X Dermalogica

The area of gut health, the gut microbiome and microbiota have received a lot of attention and talk in recent years, with research uncovering the influence of gut health on so many other areas of health, including skin health, mental health, chronic disease risk, immunity and even weight management.

In this article, we want to unpack the science behind gut health and provide you with practical recommendations and tips to implement into your lifestyle on a daily basis to improve the health of your digestive system and microbiome.

The digestive system runs all the way from your mouth and oral cavity down to your intestines and colon, so gut health, therefore, refers to the health of the entire gastrointestinal tract or GIT, including the oesophagus, the stomach, the small and large intestines.

The gut microbiota refers to the rainforest of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites that inhabit the gastrointestinal tract. These can have several beneficial or harmful effects on our health. The bacteria that live in our gut have a major influence on all areas of health, including our skin!

Many people are confused as to what optimal gut health looks like, and that is because gut health is so complex and intricate, it can be difficult to define or accurately measure. Gut health consists of how well you are digesting and breaking down food, how effectively your body is absorbing nutrients, the health of the microbiota, specifically the diversity and abundance thereof, immune system function as well as digestive comfort.

A good indication that your gut health is functioning well is the occurrence of daily, well-formed bowel movements and the absence of frequent symptoms such as excessive gas and bloating, abdominal pain and cramps, constipation, reflux, gastritis and diarrhoea.

Poor gut health or digestive disorders may be due to a number of different factors including; genetics, whether we were birthed naturally or by cesarean, whether or not we were breastfed and for how long, stress and anxiety, dietary choices, geographical locations, physical damage to the gut, oral health, lifestyle factors and side effects of medication use.

Poor gut health can also show up in areas of the body and symptoms that are not directly connected to the gastrointestinal tract. Some other symptoms that may be linked to poor gut health include; inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, poor blood sugar balance, skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, rashes, acne and breakouts, autoimmune conditions, frequent infections and illness, mood disorders such as anxiety and depression as well as unexplained weight gain or loss.

Many of the symptoms and conditions above can be linked to either inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract or dysbiosis of the gut microbiota. Dysbiosis refers to the state when there is an imbalance between the amount of beneficial and harmful bacteria in our gastrointestinal tracts. Meaning there are more bad bacterial strains than good bacterial strains within the gastrointestinal tract. A healthy microbiota is characterised by diversity, variety and abundance in other words loads of different strains of beneficial bacteria. What many people are unaware of is that the food we eat has a direct impact on the diversity and abundance of our gut microbiome.

Dietary and lifestyle factors that can contribute to inflammation of the gut and or dysbiosis include:

- A lack of fibre in the diet

- A lack of plant-based foods in the diet

- Excessive alcohol intake, considered as more than two alcoholic beverages per day

- Unaddressed food allergies or intolerances (such as a lactose or gluten intolerance)

- A lack of essential fatty acids, specifically omega 3 in the diet

- A diet high in processed meats, fat and refined sugar

- Frequent antibiotic use, antibiotics kill off bad and good bacterial strains

- Poor dental and oral hygiene

- High levels of stress and anxiety

There is a close relationship between the skin and the gut, often referred to as the skin-gut axis, which is allowing for exciting new findings in dermatology, gastroenterology and nutrition. Just as our gut has billions of microorganisms living inside it, our skin also has its own ecosystem of microorganisms. Research is starting to show how the two systems affect one another through communication via the immune system. When the intestinal barrier is impaired or inflamed, intestinal bacteria can enter the bloodstream, accumulate in the skin and disrupt the skin’s microbiome.

Gastrointestinal disorders and imbalances within the balance of the gut microbiome appear to play a key role in the development of many inflammatory disorders of the skin. These common skin disorders include acne, psoriasis, eczema and rosacea. It is important to remember that there are many factors that contribute to the development of these conditions; the skin-gut axis may potentially be one of these.

Interesting studies suggest a possible relationship between rosacea and Helicobacter pylori, which is a disease-causing bacteria found in the stomach and small intestine, whereby prevalence of H. Pylori is higher in individuals with rosacea than controls and that eradicating this type of bacteria can lead to improved skin outcomes. With regards to eczema, some studies suggest that a lack of microbiome diversity during the early stages of life can impact the optimal maturation and functioning of the immune system, and potentially lead to chronic inflammation. The gut microbiome can also play a key role in the development and progression of acne, again by allowing for the growth of disease-causing bacteria and chronic inflammation.

The below guidelines are general recommendations aimed at improving the health of the gut microbiome. Dietary and lifestyle recommendations for gut health focus on increasing foods that encourage and support the growth of beneficial intestinal microorganisms and prevent the growth of disease-causing microorganisms.

- Eat more plants!

- Drink enough clean, filtered water daily.

- Increase your intake of fibre

- Increase your consumption of probiotics

- Increase your consumption of prebiotics

- Regularly include potent anti-inflammatory foods in your diet

- Work with health professionals (a doctor and a dietitian)

- Work on stress management

- Decrease the intake of refined sugar, processed meats, takeaways, deep-fried foods, animal protein, alcohol, caffeine and high salt food

Who would have thought that your gut and skin are so closely connected? If you are concerned about your gut health, please visit your doctor for further investigations and treatment, especially if you are suffering with pain, chronic constipation or mucus / blood in the stool.

**Disclaimer. The advice and information provided in this article is intended for educational purposes only and should not replace the individualized advice from a healthcare provider. Always speak to your healthcare provider before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle. Dermalogica / Carly Seager cannot be held liable for any injury or harm experienced from implementing any of the suggested recommendations.

9 June 2022
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